Most evangelicals would say they have a high view of the Bible. Most have no problem confessing that they believe in the inspiration, inerrancy, sufficiency, and authority of the Bible. In fact, these doctrinal confessions are very important for many Christians. But how does our theology of the Bible actually affect our Christian lives? It’s one thing to confess a high view of Scripture; it’s an entirely different thing to live out that confession. I fear sometimes that while many Christians are theological conservatives, they are practical liberals. In other words, they do not necessarily feast upon and submit unto God’s word in a way that is consistent with what they say they believe it to be.
So, what does it look like to live out your high view of Scripture? I would argue that what you do with the Bible is just as important, if not more important, as what you say about the Bible. Here are FOUR specific questions to help you diagnose what you actually believe about the Bible.
1. Do you allow the Bible to nurture your relationship with God?
Nurturing any relationship requires communication. If you expect your intimacy with your spouse to grow deeper, you must communicate. If you expect your relationship with your child to grow, you must talk and listen to them. The same is true with God. But how do we hear from God? The doctrine of inspiration teaches us that God speaks to us through the Scriptures. If you are not feasting on the word of God, you are not hearing from God. Period. If you are not hearing from God, you’re not growing in your relationship with God. First and foremost, if you want to know if you are living out your theology of the Bible, you should examine your own consumption of the Bible. If you truly believe that it is the very words of God, then you will read, memorize, meditate, and study it regularly. Why do we so often read and listen to so many other things in an attempt to nurture our relationship with God before we actually read the Bible? So, do you want to know if you actually believe the Bible is God’s word? Answer this question: Do I regularly allow it to nurture my relationship with God?
2. Do you allow the Bible to set the direction for your family?
In order to know if the Bible is setting the direction for your family, ask yourself these two questions. First, is God’s word a focal point in your family? Do you talk about it “when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise”? Do you talk about it with your children and spouse? Do you allow its teachings to prioritize your family schedule, budget, and activities? Is it a regular part of family conversations? Consider this: If a stranger where to observe your family for a week, what would they say is your view of the Bible? A rule book that is only appealed to in order to modify behavior? A self-help book that is only opened when you have a specific need or question? Or would they say that your family views the Bible as the very words of God that teach you how to live, that have the power to transform you into the image of God Himself, that provide life, direction, and peace? You can tell a lot about what you actually believe about the Bible by examining the role it plays in your family’s daily life.
Here’s a second question: Is the Bible your family’s primary resource for all family-related issues? When you have parenting questions, where do you go first: the Christian bookstore, the Internet, or the Bible? Where do you go first when you have marital questions or problems: a Christian counselor or the Wonderful Counselor? This is not to imply that Christians should never avail themselves of quality Christian resources, but it is a reminder that the Bible is sufficient, meaning it has everything we need to be the people God has called us to be. Is it setting the direction for your family?
3. Do you allow the Bible to empower your fellowship in the church?
I’ve said before that “fellowship” is not merely eating or socializing with other Christians. Christian fellowship is actively participating in one another’s spiritual lives. Is the word of God empowering your relationships with other Christians in the church? Does it come up in conversation when you are “fellowshipping” with other believers?
What does this look like practically? If a Christian were to come to you and confess that they were addicted to alcohol, would you feel qualified to help them? What if they confessed that their marriage was heading for divorce? My assumption would be that most Christians would not feel qualified and would want to outsource the situation to a licensed counselor or at least a pastor. Why is that though? Do we truly believe the Bible is sufficient? There are two reasons you may not feel qualified to help other struggling Christians: (1) You don’t know God’s word as well as you ought or (2) you have not embraced it as the sufficient resource for every spiritual problem a person faces. You do not have to possess a degree in counseling to provide biblical counsel. The best definition I’ve heard for biblical counseling is this: Listen for unbiblical thinking and counter it with biblical truth. Any Christian who is filled with God’s Spirit and knows God’s word can do this. Allow your high view of God’s word to empower you to speak truth and provide counsel to other believers in the church. God’s inspired, inerrant, sufficient, and authoritative word empowers genuine Christian fellowship in the church.
4. Do you allow the Bible to shape your beliefs, convictions, and lifestyles?
There are times when Christians confess that the Bible is their supreme authority in life, but then allow other authorities to trump what the Bible says. What authorities often attempt to usurp the Bible’s authority? It could be a political conviction, a personal theological confession, an ideological commitment or even a religious tradition. This typically occurs subtly. We rarely say, “I don’t care what the Bible says, I believe this!” But what we will do at times is force the Bible to fit into our predetermined beliefs through questionable interpretations of the Bible. Rather than allowing our beliefs and convictions to be shaped by the Bible, we shape the Bible to fit our beliefs. When we do this, it is clear that we do not actually have as high of a view of Scripture as we might confess.
There are other times when we fail to submit our lifestyles to God’s word. It’s one thing to be a hearer of the word, it’s something else to be a doer of the word. What you actually believe about the Bible will be seen in whether or not you submit to what it says. If it is true, as we say, that the Bible is the very words of God, then it is not enough to know it deeply, we must submit every behavior, attitude, and thought to what the Bible says.
So, I ask again: What do you actually believe about the Bible?